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Nikon D1 versus Nikon D4

The Nikon D1 and the Nikon D4 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 1999 and January 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D1) and a full frame (D4) sensor. The D1 has a resolution of 2.6 megapixel, whereas the D4 provides 16.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D1 vs Nikon D4

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D1 and the Nikon D4 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the D1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D1 vs Nikon D4
Compare D1 versus D4 top
Compare D1 and D4 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D4 is somewhat larger (5 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the D4 is markedly heavier (22 percent) than the D1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D4) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D1). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D1» 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz .. Y Jun 1999 5,499- i Nikon D1
Nikon D4« 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X
Nikon D2H« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 37.7 oz 2900 Y Jul 2003 3,499- i Nikon D2H
Nikon D1H« » 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 4,499- i Nikon D1H
Nikon D1X« » 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999- i Nikon D1X

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D1 was somewhat cheaper (by 8 percent) than the D4 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D1 vs Nikon D4

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D4 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D4 is 132 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D1 and Nikon D4 sensor measures

With 16.2MP, the D4 offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the D4 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.29μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). Yet, the D4 is a much more recent model (by 12 years and 6 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

D1 versus D4 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D1» APS-C 2.6 2000 1312-----Nikon D1
Nikon D4« Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659Nikon D2X
Nikon D2H« » APS-C 4.0 2464 1632-18.910.035240Nikon D2H
Nikon D1H« » APS-C 2.6 2000 1312-----Nikon D1H
Nikon D1X« » APS-C 5.9 3008 1960-----Nikon D1X

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D4 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D1 does not. The highest resolution format that the D4 can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D1 vs Nikon D4

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D1 and the D4 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D1 and Nikon D4 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D1»optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 16000 1.5 n n Nikon D1
Nikon D4«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2X
Nikon D2H« »optical Y 2.5 211 fixed n 8000 8.0 n n Nikon D2H
Nikon D1H« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 16000 5.0 n n Nikon D1H
Nikon D1X« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 16000 3.0 n n Nikon D1X

The D1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D4 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. The D4 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D1 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Nikon D1»Y-----FW---Nikon D1
Nikon D4«Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D4S
Nikon Df« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon Df
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2X
Nikon D2H« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2H
Nikon D1H« »Y-----FW---Nikon D1H
Nikon D1X« »Y-----FW---Nikon D1X

Both the D1 and the D4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the D4 was followed by the Nikon D4S.

Review summary: Nikon D1 vs Nikon D4

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D1 and the Nikon D4? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Nikon D1:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (16000/sec vs 8000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 240g or 18 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 1999).


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D4:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (16.2 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 147%.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Reflects 12 years and 6 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D4 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 3 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D1 03:08 D4

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D1 or the D4. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D1»-HiRec--- Jun 1999 5,499- i Nikon D1
Nikon D4«--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X
Nikon D2H« »-HiRec-rev- Jul 2003 3,499- i Nikon D2H
Nikon D1H« »-HiRec-rev- Feb 2001 4,499- i Nikon D1H
Nikon D1X« »-HiRec-rev- Feb 2001 5,999- i Nikon D1X

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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